Catalytic converter thieves targeted by new California laws

California is cracking down on catalytic converter thefts with two new laws signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday.

One piece of legislation requires recyclers to record the year, make, and model of the car from which they removed a catalytic converter.

The recycler also has to keep a copy of the title of the vehicle. 

The second bill restricts the sale of the highly sought-after car parts to licensed dealers. 

"We're going to get to the root causes of this, at least one of the root causes of this crime," said Newsom, referring to "middlemen who pay top dollar for those stolen parts."

SEE ALSO: Catalytic converters stolen from several marked SFPD vehicles

"It will now be illegal in California to buy catalytic converters from anyone other, anyone other than licensed dismantlers or dealers," Newsom added.

Without proof of legitimate acquisition, the first penalty for selling a catalytic converter is $1,000 and $2,000 for each additional offense and a possible loss of their business license. 

Thefts of catalytic converters jumped by more than 325% between 2019 and 2020. Last year, more than 18,000 of the anti-pollution converters – worth $32 million – were stolen in California. 

There are valuable metals in the converters such as rhodium, platinum, and palladium. One metal, rhodium, is valued at $14,000 per ounce. 

Prius owner John has been waiting two months. 

"There's been so many thefts, throughout the nation, they're just backlogged in catalytic converter replacements," he said, himself a 2022 theft victim. 

John is not alone. "It's happened to me three different times; very, very frustrating and, of course, very expensive to get these cars repaired," said 2021 theft victim Scott Bassett. "I turned on the car, and it sounded like a jet engine. It sounded like it was about to explode," said 2019 theft victim Elana Auerbach.

The catalytic converter theft rates in California are the highest in the country. 

Some cars are eaiser to steal from and more profitable to the thief. The cars stripped most often are the Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius, Honda Accord, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Silverado and the Ford F-series pickup trucks.